Aside for oil drilling-related legislation, there weren't any high profile partisan legislative fights on Capitol Hill last week. The major piece of legislation that was brought to the floor and ultimately passed the House last week was the highly bi-partisan reauthorization of appropriations for our intelligence agencies (H.R. 754). The bill passed 392-15. Unfortunately, it is these "non-controversial" bills that are prone to insertions of reckless amendments. After all, who is watching the banal congressional proceedings of consensus legislation?
On Thursday, Republicans allowed Democrats to offer two amendments that would mandate pilot programs and studies to facilitate diversity within the intelligence agencies. I don't begrudge the GOP leaders for running an open process and allowing Democrats to offer amendments. The problem is that they adopted the amendments by voice vote, instead of voting them down. Well, if the timeworn bromide that "Republicans only control one-half of one-third of government" is sufficient justification for failure to pass prudent legislation, it should certainly justify their scuttling of multicultural amendments.
Here are the two amendments:
H.AMDT. 289 John Barrow (D-GA): An amendment numbered 2 printed in House Report 112-75 to task the Director of National Intelligence with creating a pilot grant program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities to assist in creating and maintaining academic curricula that teach advanced critical foreign languages, and for study abroad programs. Amendment aims to help intelligence community meet strategic, diversity and critical language goals.
Waters #19 (D-CA): This amendment would require a report from the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community on the extent to which racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are employed by the intelligence community. The report would also have to address barriers to the recruitment and retention of additional racial and ethnic minorities in intelligence community positions. This report would be required within 180 days of enactment. The amendment text can be viewed here. (Source: RSC summary)
This is not an earth shattering issue because the amendments don't (yet) place consequential mandates or racial quotas on our intelligence organizations. However, they might invite further criticism of diversity problems, augmenting the pressure to impose quotas. What happens if the report reveals a dearth of group A or color B within the NSA?
Also, a diversity study in itself, a desideratum of the left, is an anathema to our belief in equal opportunity over equal results. Do we need to gratuitously approve liberal social engineering endeavors while we are in control of the House? Do we really want to open the door for racial quotas in such critical fields as intelligence and national security? Is this the time to give liberals fodder to advocate that we dumb down our most important government agencies? Are we going to agree to study the lack of diversity among the SEAL teams as well?
Obviously, we must be judicious in picking fights with leadership. This certainly isn't one of them. However, regrettably, it shows us that when we see baneful legislation coming up for a vote, we cannot necessarily count on leadership to vote it down. A similar thing occurred earlier this year when a number of Republicans approved an Obamacare program under a suspension vote on a ‘non-controversial' Democrat amendment. Nobody was disquieted by the scheduling of such a vote because it was presumed that the Republican majority would easily defeat it.
We must continue to focus our attention and shed light on every aspect of the legislative process; committee markups, committee and leadership position appointments (yes, we're talking to you, Senator McConnell), roll calls, "benign amendments", and suspension votes. We do not have a Tea Party Congress yet; we merely have a minority of individuals who are aligned with the virtues of the Tea Party.
Vigilance is our best friend in Congress.
Cross-posted to RedState.com